Alex Hales made the most of an early life by hitting the highest score in a one-day match at Lord’s to lead Nottinghamshire to their fifth limited overs trophy, beating Surrey by four wickets.
Had Hales turned to Ollie Pope after the Surrey man dropped him on nine, and said, “You’ve just dropped the Royal London One-Day Cup”, it would have felt a little premature.
It would, however, have been immensely accurate, for he would go on to score 187* in a remarkable chase that handed Surrey their third runners-up medals in as many years.
It appeared for the majority of his side’s innings that Hales wasn’t playing in the same game as his teammates. Where they struggled to get in and looked uncomfortable against Surrey’s attack, he caressed and tonked the ball in equal measure to all sides.
Notts’ difficulty scoring made Hales’ life all the more important. In Sam Curran’s first over, he drove to cover where Pope couldn’t hold onto the catch. It went hard and fast, but was the only chance the opener gave and the decisive moment in the match.
The cover drive was a particular favourite of Hales’, his execution so stunning one might be forgiven for watching a compilation of them on repeat for hours on end. He was in a different class for the entire afternoon, Surrey helpless in the counter-attack.
He pulled the first six of the day not long after being dropped, then proceeded to strike boundary after boundary wherever there were gaps, with ease. By the time he got to 94 in the 18th over, his side had just 117 runs in total. He brought up three figures with a push to long on, and was far from finished.
Eventually partnered by skipper Chris Read, playing in his last Lord’s final before retiring, Hales continued the onslaught, launching Scott Borthwick into the stands twice in an over.
A flick round the corner brought up his 150 and passed Geoffrey Boycott’s record of the highest domestic one-day final score. More records tumbled as his tally increased: his 171st run gave him the highest one-day score at Lord’s, the next his highest List A score, while his 185th surpassed Michael Lumb as the highest List A score by a Nottinghamshire batsman.
Meanwhile, Read displayed his class, steadying his side when they could easily have collapsed. He hit seven fours but was almost innocuous compared to his partner, bringing up his half-century – accidentally when the ball hitting his wayward bat as he ducked, as if to sum up Surrey’s afternoon – at a run-a-ball.
Others had tried, and failed, to partner Hales in his mammoth knock. Lumb was removed lbw in the powerplay, as was Riki Wessels. Hales and Samit Patel added 44 for the third wicket, but Patel scored just seven before hooking a short one from Ravi Rampaul to Sam Curran.
Brendan Taylor was, for some time, the only man to make double figures, reaching the dizzying heights of 11 with a crisp straight drive before edging Jade Dernbach behind next ball.
Read holed out 11 runs short of victory on 58, departing to a standing ovation from the 17,000 strong crowd. James Pattinson hit the winning run as Notts celebrated their first limited over success since 2013.
Earlier, Mark Stoneman had carried his bat for Surrey with an excellent 144*, though he too might have been out far sooner but for a horror drop.
He anchored Surrey’s innings, the only man to look resolute during difficult periods having started in the same fine form that makes his Test squad omission all the more disheartening. He looked fluent early on, punishing width through the covers or cutting in glorious fashion.
In the eighth over came the big reprieve – the ex-Durham man not quite finding the middle and Steven Mullaney, at cover, put down the simplest of chances, perhaps losing the ball in the array of empty, white seats in the top of the Tavern Stand. Irrespective of the how, the what had significance.
Joined after the first powerplay by Kumar Sangakkara – batting for what will likely be his final county appearance at Lord’s – Stoneman continued to press on, cutting his seventh boundary to reach his fifty in the 12th over.
He was given another let off in the seventies when Read couldn’t hold onto a faint edge off Patel, and he made Nottinghamshire pay for it. As wickets tumbled around him, Stoneman slowed a touch to keep his side falling apart.
His first century in the competition this season, from 108 balls, came through an edge that raced away very fine, but he wasn’t finished yet. Though he struck just two more fours after reaching three figures, he ensured Surrey batted their allocation, carrying his bat for a very impressive 144*.
But how much easier it could have been, had they caught him earlier. Or, indeed, had Jason Roy been out for a golden duck as opposed to the 23 he made. First ball of the match, Luke Fletcher found his edge but the ball went straight through the hands of Wessels at first slip. It was about as routine, if not more so, than Mullaney’s blunder.
Sangkkarra was tied down by some tight bowling from Mullaney, in tandem with Stuart Broad, and made just 30 before feathering through to Read. Soon after his dismissal came a mini collapse: three wickets in nine balls for eight runs.
First Scott Borthwick gave Mullaney catching practice at midwicket, the Outlaws man then bowling Ben Foakes, who played inside a straight one, before Patel had Pope caught behind to leave Surrey 180-5. Patel finished with figures of 3-51, furthering his case that he deserves a look-in if England want a left arm spinner.
Sam Curran played a good supporting hand with 24, but he was beaten for pace by James Pattinson, while brother Tom denied a second run that was clearly there and was run out in the mix-up, at least having the presence of mind to ensure he was the man out.
Gareth Batty attempted to walk when he edged behind but Read prevented him doing so, unsure on the carry. Replays proved it dropped short. Batty was bowled a run later, and Jade Dernbach holed out to long off after ramping a couple over fine leg.